"Ms. Marvel," Tumblr, and the industrial logics of identity in digital spaces

  • Christopher M. Cox Georgia State University
Keywords: Comics, Gender, Identity, Industry, Labor, Marvel Comics, Promotion, Race

Abstract

This essay examines fan interactions on "The All-New Ms. Marvel Backstage Pass," a Tumblr site initiated by Marvel Comics to promote the Ms. Marvel (2014–) comic book. I conceive of this site as a space in which racial, ethnic, and gendered identity dimensions can be uniquely articulated in accordance with identity markers of the Ms. Marvel character, a female teenage Pakistani American Muslim. These articulations are possible due to Tumblr's unique affordances as a mediator of fandom formation—affordances that are both technological and social. For Ms. Marvel fans, Tumblr affords opportunities for intertexual and paratextual productivity, orienting emerging fans into broader rites and practices of fandom participation and specific forms of identity expression undertaken in accordance with identity vectors of Ms. Marvel, its creators, and its fans. For Marvel Comics, fan activities on "The All-New Ms. Marvel Backstage Pass" are a source of promotional labor inflected with the veneer of authenticity, providing the company with a centralized means of instigating fannish promotion and emboldening an emergent audience that corresponds to institutional desires for audience diversification. This Tumblr therefore brokers the economic and institutional drives of Marvel Comics and the cultural drives of an emergent diversified fandom.

Published
2017-12-04